In this episode of The Road Home, Ethan Nichtern explores the dharma of Lego and how doing small things can help with the often insurmountable feeling of being overwhelmed by the world.
Get more Buddhist wisdom from Ethan at ethannichtern.com
The Dharma of Lego
Ethan explores the dharma of Lego, which teaches us that large, seemingly insurmountable objects can be broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. The world may feel completely overwhelming at times, but we can take things brick by brick. He talks about different levels of truth and why it’s important to be specific about things rather than generalizing them.
“Now, all of this is to say that we all overgeneralize a lot. We look at our experience almost like this brick wall of Lego, especially in hard times, and we can’t actually see it in its specificity.” – Ethan Nichtern
Dr. Robert Svoboda explores truth and determining what is real in Living with Reality Ep. 14
Breaking Down the Wall (15:15)
Ethan talks more about how our habit of overgeneralizing things leads to feelings of being stuck and paralyzed. But mindfulness can help us break down that insurmountable wall we build into individual bricks. Ethan introduces the three levels of practice – personal, interpersonal, and collective – where we can start working with those Lego bricks and transforming our lives.
“It’s like the crucial thing about mindfulness is we have to counter the mind’s tendency to overgeneralize moments and to see that when moments are overgeneralized, it activates a lot of stuck responses. It activates fear, it activates aggression, it activates the parts of ourself that go into a kind of a defensive paralysis mode.” – Ethan Nichtern
Joseph Goldstein takes a closer look at what mindfulness is and isn’t in Insight Hour Ep. 113
Doing Small Things (28:00)
Ethan talks about doing small things on the personal level, the interpersonal level, and the collective, societal level, using examples from his own life to help guide us through the process. He ends by exploring how the philosophy of individualism seems to be reaching its final leg and that we have a chance to start creating small Lego villages of new ways of doing things.
“Again, you say, ‘Well that’s not gonna stop the climate crisis. That’s not gonna end white supremacy. That’s not gonna get anybody liberated from their own personal confusion.’ But it is a mindful action that actually allows me to experience this moment of overwhelm and say, ‘What’s one thing I can do?’” – Ethan Nichtern